Gary's blog for couples and parents plus resources for individuals, leaders and churches.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Be the Parent!

Another cardinal rule of effective parenting is to BE the parent, not one of the children. Now I'm not suggesting that we parents can't appropriately and with great fun be child-like now and then. Even as a grandparent I love getting down on the floor with any of my grandsons and playing "bus," or "truck" or building with Legos.

No, being the parent is more of a big picture idea. First of all, being the parent means we don't ask our kids questions that they shouldn't be given the power to answer. For example, don't ask "Would you like to go to bed now?" if it's time for you to decide that it's bedtime or it's a time you've already established as bedtime. That decision is yours not theirs.

Or, "Are you ready to get in the car so we can take you to school?" If it's time to go and important that you leave right away then they shouldn't be allowed to answer that question. As parents we will generally give the direction about when it's time to go to the store, leave for church, etc. Yes, there will be times when we can give them the choice but that's a whole different scenario.

Second, being the parent means we are the ones who make key decisions about family life, how our time is spent and who will do certain things around the house. I remember seeing a family on one of the talk shows describe how for most evening meals dinner was picked up at various restaurants based on what each person and child decided they wanted to eat.

Wise parents, those who are truly acting as parents, explain to their kids that this is what we're having tonight to eat. Depending on their age and the circumstances they can eat it or not eat it but they're not the deciders of what's good for them every night. And you don't have to be an ogre or tyrant to do that either.

In the process they're also teaching their kids lessons about how to give in and enjoy what others enjoy. Now certainly there can be special times when kids get to make requests, enjoy their favorites and have a surprise about food, activities, and the like but that can't be the norm.

As I said in an earlier post, kids will learn early on if we're going to truly act as the parent or not. On a much more positive note, kids also need their parents to be emotionally strong for them when life is a challenge, to be the one who takes charge. We parents can't expect the kids to somehow manage things in our place. We can still hurt and be vulnerable when we hit hard times, but we can't ask our kids to somehow parent us even through the worst.

So ask yourself, "Am I being the parent these days with my kids or are they parenting me?" It's important that we remain the adult until they're able to assume that role themselves.
Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

Gary is currently a consultant, teacher, speaker and chaplain providing resources for families, leaders and churches.

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